Belgium has paused use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 18 to 55 years old, national and regional health ministers announced in a statement.
They said their decision follows a review by the European Medicine Agency (EMA) earlier today, saying there was a “possible link” between the vaccine and rare blood clots.
In their statement, Belgium's Ministers said that based on recent scientific advice, they “have decided to temporarily replace AstraZeneca with another vaccine for people aged 18 to 55 years.”
“All vaccines continue to be used for people aged 56 and over,” the statement reads, emphasizing that the EMA has said the benefits of AstraZeneca still outweigh any risks.
“From the age of 56, the demonstrable benefits of vaccination in preventing hospitalization and mortality are undoubtedly much higher than the consequences of the rare side effects,” it adds.
The Belgian Interministerial Conference on Health will re-evaluate the decision “within 4 weeks.
The statement also adds that Belgium, through the EU conference of health ministers, is requesting that EMA make a more detailed analysis of the benefit-risk analysis per age category and “urgently consider the question regarding the 2nd dose.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said Wednesday that a particular combination of unusual blood clots with low blood platelet counts should be listed as a side effect of the vaccine, but stopped short of recommending its use be limited.
The benefits of the shot outweigh the risks and Covid-19 is a "very serious disease," the EMA added.